Thursday, 24 September 2015

Birdwatch - latest editorial

October 2015 | Issue 280

You might think an organisation with a name like Raptor Alliance would be supporting Britain’s most persecuted group of wild birds. You’d be wrong: it lobbies on behalf of pigeon fanciers against Peregrine Falcons and Sparrowhawks, with potentially damaging consequences for these protected birds of prey. Raptor Alliance believes the law should be changed so that pigeon fanciers can apply to have ‘problem’ raptors relocated – an unworkable but also unnecessary idea, as only 14 per cent of domestic pigeons not returning to their lofts are thought to become prey items.

Of course, some collateral damage ought to be expected when a million pigeons bred domestically each year are destined for skies already occupied by natural predators. But what really struck me about this attitude was the implicit assumption that nature is an inconvenience to be controlled or tampered with whenever it suits. A similarly warped view of our natural heritage is also the hallmark of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation supporting the destruction of wildlife. The CA recently unleashed an ill-conceived tirade against BBC presenter Chris Packham – voted by readers of this magazine as Conservation Hero of the Year – for “blatant political propaganda” when he did little more than highlight serious wildlife crimes.

These latest attacks on the conservation movement and the welfare of wildlife follow another summer of illegal raptor killings, and an ongoing campaign by pro-game shooting You Forgot the Birds against the RSPB and its work. There is a co-ordinated feel to this sustained negative press about a conservation body cleared by the Charities Commission of charges made against it.

The RSPB may have its faults, but it’s no different in that respect from any other large organisation, and its work in the countryside deserves commendation. More than that, the society and others who speak out on behalf of our natural heritage need defending from partisan interests who are far more concerned with their own agendas than the sustainable management of our disfigured countryside and its fast-declining wildlife.

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